Mujahid’s reformist facade


March 20, 2019

Mujahid’s reformist facade

 

Image result for Mahathir an Zakir Naik

 

Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the minister in charge of religious affairs, has carefully cultivated an image of himself as an open-minded political moderate and reformer, someone who stands apart from the rest of the extremist crowd.

Of late, however, his pronouncements and actions have led many to wonder just how deep his commitment to reform and moderation is.

His reaction to the recent International Women’s Day rally is a case in point. While he had nothing much to say about many of the legitimate issues concerning women’s rights that were raised, he expressed shock over the presence of members of the LGBT community who were also there to press for their rights.

Image result for Mujahid

Admittedly, the LGBT issue is controversial in Malaysia but to suggest that they were “abusing the democratic space” was simply outrageous. Clearly, he does not understand that in a democracy, everyone, including the LGBT community, has a right to be heard.

Image result for Mahathir an Zakir Naik

Harassing women fighting for their rights is common enough in a  Wahhabi state like Saudi Arabia. That it should happen in a secular democracy like Malaysia is cause for concern.

In the short span of a few months, Mujahid’s journey as a minister in Malaysia Baru has taken him from standing alongside a transgender activist and pleading with the public not to discriminate against the LGBT community, to open hostility against them.

Image result for Mujahid

 

He has gone from championing human rights to calling for greater restrictions on our democratic space. And he has shifted from insisting that Jakim and other Islamic agencies should be reformed to empowering them yet further.

Indeed, he is now defending Jakim’s excessive RM810 million budget as reasonable and justified.

Instead of moderating the worst excesses of agencies like Jakim, which he said was one of his priorities, he is allowing them to slowly radicalise his political views.

No surprise then that Mujahid met recently with the infamous Salafist preacher Zakir Naik, a fugitive wanted abroad for terrorism-related and money laundering offences and who remains blacklisted by several countries.

After the meeting, Mujahid shocked many Malaysians by declaring Naik, who he once criticised for demeaning other faiths, as “an inspiration”.

How Mujahid can bestow his admiration on the same man who, convinced that UMNO would win re-election, argued that it is better for Muslims to support a corrupt Muslim regime than an honest one that includes non-Muslims is also inexplicable.

Of course, as soon as UMNO lost power, Naik rushed over to kiss Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s hand and ingratiate himself with the new government.

His confidence in the absolute gullibility of Malaysia’s ruling elites was clearly not misplaced. Heroes, it seems, come quite cheaply in Malaysia.

Mujahid has since tried to justify his meeting as an attempt to educate Naik about the country’s Islamic administration. Few will be fooled by such a facile explanation.

Now that Mujahid has anointed Naik as a worthy role model, in effect Malaysia Baru’s new inspirer-in-chief, every ceramah door in the country will be open to him and his extremist teachings.

Don’t be surprised if Naik soon emerges as the most influential Islamic voice in the nation; quite a coup for a fugitive but what a setback for national unity!

But let’s face it: when it comes to Muslim radicals, the ruling elites seem to have tunnel vision. Even the police seem to go out of their way to avoid confronting the ugly reality that Malaysia is far too tolerant of extremism.

In explaining the increasing number of terrorists who use Malaysia as a base, for example, the police chief suggested that it was due to the fact that Malaysia has good air links with the rest of the world, as if somehow Malaysia is the only well-connected country in the region.

Image result for zakir naik quotes

A Life devoted to spreading a Message of Hate of the Other

The fact is terrorists choose Malaysia as their base of operations because they know that the religious culture here is more accommodating and supportive. Extremists only have to don the right religious garb and speak the same Ketuanan Melayu language and they are in.

Naik should have been kicked out of the country the moment Pakatan Harapan came to power. That he remains here – despite his fugitive status, his unsavoury background, his alleged links to terrorists, his taunting of religious minorities and his disgraceful support for the former regime – is just another indication of the misplaced priorities of Malaysia’s political elites.

Whatever it is, it’s a sad day for Malaysia when Mujahid, someone we were all hoping would help moderate the trend towards religious extremism in our nation, draws inspiration from the likes of Naik.

It really makes you wonder what lurks behind the reformist façade of some of these PH leaders.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

In the age of terror, we don’t need inciteful preachers


March19, 2019

In the age of terror, we don’t need inciteful preachers

Opinion  | By Dr. Azly Rahman

COMMENT | ‘Minister meets ‘inspirational‘ Zakir Naik,’ read a news headline. This is a very disappointing message considering that when Mujahid Yusof Rawa became de facto Islamic affairs Minister, he announced that Zakir’s way of preaching was not suitable for our multicultural society.

Why a different message all of a sudden? I am also troubled by the news that we’re bringing Malaysian Islamic State fighters back home. What are we getting into?

Alas, is our minister in charge of religion so shallow in knowledge he needs the urgent help of a TV evangelist who is wanted in his own country? How does this go well with what the national unity minister wants, as well as what the education minister would craft for our philosophy of education or social reconstruction and a new Malaysian patriotism?

Have we not enough confidence in our own understanding of how to explain the beauty of Islam in a multicultural society? A religion that can co-exist peacefully with other beautiful religions and philosophies? Preach for peace or don’t preach at all. Or do we really need preachers of this kind, such as Zakir Naik?

Years of studying (and later teaching) Chinese, Indian, Western, and Islamic philosophies have taught me to appreciate diverse traditions and never to belittle any of these “truths”. We cannot know the Ultimate Truth, only “perspectives” useful in our lifetime. And these truths come in a variety of languages and concepts. We just need to train our mind and soul to be worldwise.

All Muslims are not necessarily brothers. I am not a brother to those who support the Islamic State, nor to those who preach hate, half-truths, and profit from these. Calling “brother” can be a first step in dominating and colonising your minds.

Islam does not need to be “defended” nor other religions need to be “attacked” in order for one to profit from religious speeches. Confrontational politics has done enough damage to Malaysians. We need more goodwill dialogue in an age of continuing terror.

I am surprised some Malaysian government leaders do not have the good sense to judge what is “inspirational” and what is “inciteful” about the Mumbai speaker, whose modus operandi is to prove other truths wrong by employing half-baked analysis.

Besides, the grand show of converting people to Islam on stage cheapens the religion – reminiscent of Christian preachers who play with rattle snakes or orchestrate a session of “speaking in tongues”. Any religion should not be trivialised as such. Each religion must encourage more deep learning and less marketing in order to teach people to behave in this world.

Inspirational? Or inciteful?

In the United States, I have taught Comparative Religions, Philosophy of Religion, Islamic Scriptures in translation, and related courses, but find the confrontational style of “fiery and steamy and hot peppery” preachers and dakwah-rists too vile and too repulsive for Malaysians.

Preachings that divide and create animosities should not be allowed as long as Malaysia is still struggling to contain race-religious hatred.

Malaysia, as a lovely cultural location of religious harmony, does not need any preacher to bring his/her ideology and conflict here.

We cannot call a preacher “inspirational” when the work done is divisive – creating animosity among a variety of believers. Isn’t Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, inspirational? TV evangelists and those doing “dakwah-for-huge-profits” prey upon the vulnerability of those who do not read widely, especially about comparative religions and philosophies. We need to educate the public. Malaysia is not a Taliban state of the lesser-educated.

Again, as one who has taught Public Speaking for many years and studied speakers and analysed their speeches, I find a high level of toxicity in the style of speaking of TV-evangelists such as Zakir Naik.

Image result for mahathir and zakir naik

Malaysia’s Chief Clown

In the case of our leaders and Pakatan Harapan government’s fascination for radical and repulsive religious preachers and the plan to bring back ex-IS supporters and fighters, we must have social media activists demanding the next urgent regime change – a government strong enough not to tolerate any nonsense that compromises national unity and national security.

Religious discussion should be dialogical, not confrontational. Each religion has flaws. A good public speaker does not intimidate/shout at members of the audience. Especially if he has a microphone and the stage. A good preacher doesn’t ask if you’re Muslim or non-Muslim before answering questions.

Zakir Naik came from a hostile environment of an ongoing conflict between Hindus and Muslims in India. Perhaps he is used to preaching with hostility – which is not suitable for intelligent Malaysian audience.

Maybe I should go around the country preaching how NOT to preach against other religions? Will I get an island too?

Why the special treatment?

Yes, what a special treatment: first, they gave him an island. Then permanent resident status. Then they hug him tight like lovers. Then we allow him to go public in finding flaws in and belittling other religions. This is how we show our love to a preacher who is wanted in his own country. Preaching is not about proving one religion is better than others.

What is so inspirational about a preacher who lambasts other religions? The Malaysian government seems to be taking it easy on matters of national security. And harbouring radical preachers!

Then there is the news that we plan to give only one month of rehabilitation time for returning Islamic State fighters and support staff, people who had pledged allegiance to another state – the terrifying Islamic State.

How many years did it take to radicalise them through those Taliban schools? Already, Malaysian schools are fertile grounds for radicalism. Why hold the seeds of destruction in your hands? You bring in former IS fighters and you might open up a new recruitment centre. Beware. It’s a business. Recruiters get paid. We are treading on dangerous national security grounds, Malaysia. Don’t we know that IS is moving into Southeast Asia? And our solution is a gentle reminder and rehabilitation?

Malaysian politicians must realise that the internet can bring about a change of any government, and bring down any politician. It is our post-modern Frankenstein, the voice of the masses. It’s not easy to mediate freedom of speech on the internet.

In the case of our leaders and Pakatan Harapan government’s fascination for radical and repulsive religious preachers and the plan to bring back ex-IS supporters and fighters, we must have social media activists demanding the next urgent regime change – a government strong enough not to tolerate any nonsense that compromises national unity and national security.

Our prayers go to those who perished in the attack on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. We have a lot to work for peace. Though we cannot stop terrorist acts, we can at least detain or deport those who inspire others to hate other religions.


AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books available here. He grew up in Johor Bahru and holds a doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honour Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Siti Kasim: An Inconvenient Woman


February 13, 2019

Siti Kasim: An Inconvenient Woman

Opinion  |  S. Thayaparan

  Our government does not seem to realise that we have a serious terrorist mentality bred with extreme prejudice inside our society, which needs to be eradicated. This is a serious problem today.—Siti Kasim.

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

― Abigail Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams

COMMENT | For those of us who view religious extremism, which is reaching critical levels as the existential threat facing this country, Siti Kasim is the raised middle finger to the religious bigots, fascist crypto-Islamists and race supremacists who have control and influence in this country.

Whether fighting for the rights of women, indigenous people, the LGBTQ community or opposing radical Islam, Siti Kasim has made herself a target for the religious bureaucracy and political operatives in the establishment.

While most Muslims who do not support the darker paths of Islam are content to hope for a moderate agenda from the political and religious elite, Siti openly advocates a progressive agenda for all Malaysians.

In this interview, Siti reminds us why people who read are dangerous to the established order of things, and continues in her efforts to save Malaysia from the political and religious class who view her as a real threat to their dominion.

Siti Kasim is an inconvenient reminder that the progressive forces in this country that could save Malaysia are being marginalised, and that speaking truth to power is problematic in these partisan times.

Do you think the persecution you face is based on the fact that you are a woman questioning religious dogma?

Yes, being an outspoken woman does not sit well with the patriarchy culture of radical Islamism. Also, a woman who does not conform to their view on how a Muslim woman should be.

How do you cope with the harassment you receive?

I try to ignore and focus on my causes. Of course, I can’t run away from reading the nasty messages sent to me, but I take it in my stride and believe that what I am doing is right for my country and my fellow Malaysians. The supportive messages I receive give me the strength to continue, and I know I am on the right path. I thank God for giving me a strong constitution to face all the negativity thrown at me.

What do you think is the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) role in the current charges against you?

I am not sure what is the AGC’s role in the current charges against me. (Note: This interview was conducted before the AGC dropped the charges against Siti Kasim for showing her middle finger to hecklers in a forum.) From what’s stated by OCCI Fadzil, he received the endorsement to charge me from the previous AGC. I believe it’s selective persecution against me by certain quarters within the government.

How do you engage with Muslims who believe in the Islamist mode of thinking and believe that sanctions against you are justified?

You have no hope of engaging with them. These are people who are indoctrinated in radical Islamism. The teachings, the mentality of which is no different from that of Talibanism and ISIS terrorists. Only Taliban and ISIS terrorists will sanction others for being different from them. The only difference between them and the Taliban and ISIS is that they have no power or weapons to carry out their threats. When they have those, the country will be torn asunder.

Yet our government does not seem to realise that we have a serious terrorist mentality bred with extreme prejudice inside our society, which needs to be eradicated. This is a serious problem today.

Malay-Muslims are participating in and leading terrorist organisations all around the world. We have groups like Skuad Badar, which is nothing more than a terrorist organisation without weapons terrorising people. We have people like Amri Che Mat and Pastor Koh disappearing in plain daylight and never to be heard again. We should be terrified. Not talking about it is not going to make it go away. We need to tackle it head-on with extreme conviction.

Does being a “liberal” Muslim who appeals to a certain demographic bring with it more problems when engaging in the Islamic discourse?

It should not be. Remember our Rukun Negara has the word ‘liberal’ in it, and it was written by Malay leadership at a time when Malay society needed to progress. In fact, most of the liberal Muslims I know have more knowledge about the Quran than the majority of the Malay population because liberals read more on their own and don’t depend on the cleric class to tell them about their religion.

Do you think that Mujahid Yusof Rawa (photo) is doing enough to offer a counter-narrative in the Islamic discourse in this country?

No. They are still not facing the fact that our religious-bent Malaysian education system is delivering to us every year a more radicalised Islamist generation who are intolerant and increasingly militant in mindset. It is no surprise that PAS is increasing in strength, and UMNO has to be more radical Islamist than before in order to gain Malay votes.

We need to change this mindset by changing education to go back to our secular humanist roots. The roots that made the Malays progressive and more developed in the 80s.

What do you think is the most important issue facing the Orang Asal community in this country and what has the Harapan government done to address this issue?

First, I’d like to correct the usage of Orang Asal and Orang Asli. The ‘Orang Asal’ term is used for Sabah and Sarawak indigenous people, whilst Orang Asli is for those in the peninsula.

The Orang Asli are largely forest or agriculture based, although several individuals have achieved levels of educational and economic success comparable to those of the dominant population.

Nevertheless, it is no hidden secret that the Orang Asli rank among the most marginalised of Malaysians today, not just in terms of numbers, but in their ability to determine their own fate.

The once politically autonomous and independent people are but a pale likeness of their ancestors.

Much of this has to do with the fact that the Malaysian nation state does not recognise the Orang Asli as a separate people – that is, as distinct groups associated with particular territorial bases and requiring ‘government’ on a different basis from that of the other communities.

But, as can be discerned from their demands, the Orang Asli are not, at least not yet, seeking self-determination in the sense that they want to secede from the Malaysian nation-state. Rather, the desire is to exercise full autonomy in their traditional territories, both in the control and ownership of their lands, and in the determination of their way of life and in the way they deal with the dominant society.

The issue of Orang Asli land rights is but the most visible and deeply-felt manifestation of the principal problem facing the Orang Asli viz-a-viz the unwillingness of the state to recognise the Orang Asli as a distinct people.

Using the ‘land rights’ problem as a strategy for Orang Asli political mobilisation is rational because the issue is deeply felt among the communities, easily identifiable, and it is the source of much social stress for the Orang Asli.

With the recent suit which our federal government initiated against the Kelantan state government, it can be seen that the Pakatan Harapan government is attempting to correct the wrongs. We have also seen more Orang Asli senators being appointed when they came into power.

From our engagement with the current government, we can see there is a lot more improvement than before, at least with the current minister in charge of Orang Asli Affairs. We hope the Harapan government will continue with its determination in trying to solve our Orang Asli problems.

Do you believe that Harapan has a moderate Islamic agenda?

They have, but they do not know how to go about it. They do not have the leadership for it. The political will is missing. I will be talking in more detail on this subject in my column soon.

Do you think it is important for non-Muslims to speak up when they witness Islamic transgressions or does this make the situation worse?

Yes. We need them to stand up for fellow Malaysians, and Malays who are being persecuted by the conservative Islamist authorities, to ensure Malaysia will always be the home for their children and grandchildren to live in and prosper. When any public policy is based on any religious ideology, every citizen must have the right to speak up about it.

Is the press doing its part in highlighting Islamic provocations?

No. It has not done enough to highlight and criticise.

Why do think “moderate” Muslims are afraid to speak up?

Just look at the social media comments by their so-called fellow Muslims against anyone who does not conform to them. The amount of vile comments, threats of sanctions, harassment, persecution and even threat of physical harm by the Islamist elements in Malay society are enough to scare away and silence many Muslims.

Do you think the Malay community needs Islamic departments at state and federal levels?

Under ideal conditions, the answer would have been ‘no’, but in our environment we need a federal department that can monitor and revamp radical Islamic teaching that is going on today to abolish them. That should be their job. We don’t need them to do dakwah (proselytisation). No government should be using tax money to propagate any religion.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessar

Entering a new year with what ifs– A 2019 Message To PH Leadership. Reject Ketuanan Politics


December 27, 2018

Entering a new year with what ifs– A Message To PH Leadership.Reject Ketuanan Politics

Leadership at its most fundamental is about moving people in the right direction – usually through changing their thinking and actions. It’s about empowering the people to move forward together towards a shared goal of improving the human condition.

In South Africa, it’s known as ubuntu – “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others,” Mandela said.

An ancient word of the Bantu peoples in South Africa, ubuntu essentially means “’I am what I am because of who we all are”. –Eric Loo

Leadership at its most fundamental is about moving people in the right direction – usually through changing their thinking and actions. It’s about empowering the people to move forward together towards a shared goal of improving the human condition.

In South Africa, it’s known as ubuntu – “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others,” Mandela said.

An ancient word of the Bantu peoples in South Africa, ubuntu essentially means “’I am what I am because of who we all are”.

Ubuntu manifests itself in our individual actions, in our family, in society, and on a larger scale in our politics. When we work together in the ubuntu spirit to oil the squeaky wheels of reforms and keep it turning, it will eventually lead to a transformation of cultures and mindsets.–Eric Loo

COMMENT | Madiba’s Way – Lessons on Life is worth a repeat reading. The book describes how former South African president Nelson Mandela, as a young boy, used to herd the village cattle with his friends in the afternoon.

“You know, when you want to get the cattle to move in a certain direction, you stand at the back with a stick,” he said.

“And then you get a few of the cleverer cattle to go to the front and move in the direction that you want them to go.

“The rest of the cattle follow the few more energetic cattle in the front, but you are really guiding them from the back. That is how a leader should do his work.”

As we start the New Year with a new government grappling with the old issues of communal politics and party factionalism, let us reflect on Mandela’s pragmatic leadership in apartheid South Africa, why the answer to complex questions is not always either-or but often the inclusive both, and the ideals that a leader is prepared to die for.

Leadership at its most fundamental is about moving people in the right direction – usually through changing their thinking and actions. It’s about empowering the people to move forward together towards a shared goal of improving the human condition.

In South Africa, it’s known as ubuntu – “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others,” Mandela said.

An ancient word of the Bantu peoples in South Africa, ubuntu essentially means “’I am what I am because of who we all are”.

Ubuntu manifests itself in our individual actions, in our family, in society, and on a larger scale in our politics. When we work together in the ubuntu spirit to oil the squeaky wheels of reforms and keep it turning, it will eventually lead to a transformation of cultures and mindsets.

Here, I’m reminded of the Group of 25, a congregation of Malay public intellectuals who came out to strongly reject Islamic extremism and “supremacist NGOs” that “have led to the deterioration of race relations, eroded citizens’ sense of safety and protection under the rule of law and undermined stability”.

But since its formation in December 2014, not much else is known about the G25 or how the progressive Malay intelligentsia could have significantly influenced the tone and contents of the national conversation. Which leads me to wonder about the what ifs as we enter the New Year.

What if the G25 had sustained its intellectual momentum and prompted the emergence of other progressive bumiputera think tanks?

Would it have fostered a gradual transformation of mindsets and rethinking of ketuanan politics among the Malays?

Would we see less factional politics in the Harapan cabinet and more concerted efforts in meeting its election promises of fundamental reforms?

What if Mahathir were to step aside over the next year or so and guide a younger leader ‘from the back’ the Mandela way? Would the leadership transfer see us move forward to a Malaysia Baru, away from the old politics of special rights and privileges? Maybe not.

What if the stranglehold of Ketuanan politics on the Malay mindset were to regress Pakatan Harapan to the vision and values, policies and propaganda, character and convictions of the old UMNO-led BN?

The situation is certainly fluid. As we enter another year of political uncertainties and factionalism, let not the cliched messages by our leaders be mere rhetoric.

Let us ensure that their pedestrian words of hope are matched by their audacious deeds over the next four years or so.

Here, I’m reminded of the “audacity of hope” that President Barack Obama invoked often in his speeches.

Writing in The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006, page 63), he said: “Sometimes we need both cultural transformation and government action – a change in values and a change in policy – to promote the kind of society we want … I believe in the power of culture to determine both individual success and social cohesion … we ignore cultural factors at our peril.”

May the 20-something age voters with their ideals, particularly from the Malay heartland, foster a new progressive language that can shift the bumiputera-or-non-bumiputera mentality to an inclusive mindset, akin Malaysian ubuntu that channel our energy into overcoming impossibilities and fulfilling potentials rather than continuing to harp on special privileges and rights to move ahead.

As we enter the New Year, may the polity awaken the ubuntu spirit here to replenish our hope for improved living conditions, equitable opportunities for all, and institutional reforms under Pakatan Harapan, which the rakyat gave the mandate to govern for the next four years or so, but which they can easily take back at the GE-15 if the new government morphs into another UMNO-BN outfit.


ERIC LOO is a senior fellow (journalism) at the School of the Arts, English & Media, Faculty of Law Humanities & Arts, University of Wollongong. He is also the founding editor of Asia Pacific Media Educator.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

 

 

 

 

Fear and Manipulation of the Malay mind


December 11 ,2018

Fear and Manipulation of the Malay mind

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for icerd malaysia

Some people claim that the winners in the anti-ICERD rally were the conservative Malay-Muslims, and the losers Pakatan Harapan (PH) and to a lesser extent UMNO.

I beg to differ.

The real winners are the bullies and racists who threaten violence simply to get their way. Ketuanan Melayu or Malay supremacy tactics were paramount at the rally, with displays of silat groups and banners reminding everyone that Malaysia belongs to the Malays.

Prayers at the rally for the destruction of the PH administration were childish and showed that these bullies lacked creativity and brains. If their taunts and threats fail, God’s name is invoked to perpetuate a culture of fear.

The true losers are Malaysians, particularly the Malays. Here was a golden opportunity for Malaysians to rebuild the nation as a united people, through meritocracy. But fear triumphed.

Malaysians are now forced to play second fiddle to a handful of insecure Malay-Muslims who cannot grow up and cannot tolerate others being their equals. These insecure, belligerent people are determined that Malaysia should live in a toxic atmosphere. Think of the jealous boyfriend or husband who says, “If I can’t have you, no one else can.”

If these insecure people cared to read history, they would find that the foundation of Malaya/Malaysia was built on the blood, sweat and tears of all races. PAS leader Hadi Awang said non-Malays should be grateful that the Malays allow them to live in Malaysia. But he is misinformed. The original settlers of both East and West Malaysia were the Orang Asli – and Malay-Muslims repay their generosity by trampling on their rights.

Bullies and racists may have triumphed this time, but the Malays should heed the hidden messages from the anti-ICERD rally.

The rally served only to distract Malaysians, especially the Malays. Over the past few weeks, several Malay leaders were arrested and charged with money laundering, abuse of power, and stealing from the people. The rally allowed them a brief respite where they tried to be heroes once again.

Individuals such as former Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor may have felt like they regained their relevance, if only for an afternoon. They needed to remind the Malays that they champion their rights. The rally gave them ample opportunity to garner moral support from their sympathisers.

Interviews with people who attended the rally showed that some had no clue what ICERD means while others said the gathering was a relief from their day-to-day routines. The coach was free. They were allegedly given a small allowance, but it was still money in their hands. They were given free food and a chance to tell the folk in their villages that they had visited Kuala Lumpur.

The Malays in Malaysia are the poor relations of their cousins overseas. The Malays who have left Malaysia are confident and successful; they do not need crutches to survive. In the days before the ICERD issue, I met many middle-class and wealthy Malays who denounced the treaty as they believed ratifying it would mean the Malays losing their right to education. Have they been to schools where the dropout rate of Malays is high? Have they asked how the children perform at some Felda schools?

One professional Malay living and working in Malaysia claimed the special privileges of the Malays would be lost and Islam would be phased out if the ICERD were to be ratified. This person is perhaps oblivious to the fact that Malays who are spoon-fed become lazy and demotivated. Malays do not enjoy special privileges or a special position. There is nothing special about having a millstone around one’s neck.

A Malay engineer visited Dataran Merdeka in the early hours of the morning, before the rally started, to take a selfie. He disagreed with ICERD because he enjoys an Ali Baba work relationship. Others see him as a successful engineer, but would he agree to meritocracy and equality in the workplace?

After PH won GE-14, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad stood by his decision of Tommy Thomas as the Attorney-General. He was equally adamant that Lim Guan Eng should be the finance minister, yet when Malay extremists threatened to wreak havoc, he faltered. Why? Was he reverting to his Umno heredity or was this a politically expedient move?

PH carried the hopes and ideals of Malaysia Baru, but when it came to ICERD, it failed the people.

Why aren’t the Malays informed that ICERD is not the end of their little world? ICERD would have been the key to a more exciting future in which they would continue to play a positive role alongside other Malaysians. And their success would have been achieved under their own steam, through their brilliance and hard work.

 The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

 
 
 

The dangers of feudalism in Malaysian society


December 7,2018

The dangers of feudalism in Malaysian society

 

Image result for dr syed hussein alatas--"Intellectuals in Developing Societies”.
 

We Malaysians are so used to feudalism. The culture of patronage and neo-feudalism is firmly entrenched in the 21st century Malaysian mindset. A feeding tube, through which “bebalisma” trickles, regularly nourishes this culture.

Bebalisma is a concept encompassing the notions of foolishness, idiocy, brainlessness, irresponsibility, unintelligence and half-wittedness. The late Syed Hussein Alatas, lexiconnoisseur par excellence, devoted an entire chapter to bebalisma (Chapter 3) in his masterpiece, “Intellectuals in Developing Societies”.

Image result for dr syed hussein alatas--"Intellectuals in Developing Societies”.

A Corrupt and Disgraced feudal  Malay Politician

The development of Malaysia’s post-colonial politics has been chequered by these notions. Our political history exposes an intellectual development that has gone awry. We can blame none other than our enduring culture of patronage and neo-feudalism. It continues to be the assembly line in which bebalisma is efficiently manufactured, packaged and recycled for eager market consumption. Post-May 9 political transformations have not been spared. I take note of a few developments post-GE14 to demonstrate that feudalism is very much alive despite prevailing anti-corruption, anti-racist and anti-bigotry sentiments that brought the Barisan Nasional administration to its knees.

In October, the central leadership of DAP rightfully called for the prohibition of elected representatives and councillors from accepting titles and awards while still in active political service. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong and state rulers were informed of DAP’s decision that titles and awards should be accepted only after the awardees have proven themselves in active service with positive results.

Awards during service is unjustified and leads to complacency. Given the feudal mentality of Malaysian society, a Datuk, Datuk Seri, Tan Sri or Tun has the upper hand in many aspects of governance including access to corrupt practices. We have seen in the previous administration how this abuse gained momentum, and the attention it was given by the media. For instance, in 2017 a series of print and online newspapers carried stories of “Datuks breaking the law”. One newspaper even suggested that at the rate so many Datuks and Datuk Seris are getting into trouble, “the Prison Department might have to build a new wing just to house these VIPs”. The editor of that newspaper had a welcoming tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. However, such humour is premised on acceptable norms but unacceptable cultural values.

Datuks and Tan Sris are VIPs, but whether they are given preferential treatment or not as criminals should not be open to debate. I would like to see more of our media focusing on the phenomenon that our feudal past should stay in the past. Furthermore, the donning of the notorious “orange lock-up” attire is befitting for all criminals, irrespective of whether they were former leaders in government. A criminal is a criminal. Society was cheated, individuals were hurt, citizens’ rights were looted. A title should not have the power to minimise such violations of societal values.

The general public and the ruling elite must change the prevailing perception of what it means to be respected in society. Feudal notions of respect are superficial and empty. An individual earns respect based on services rendered, not on how many lines your name is.

These services have to benefit a majority rather than a select minority with vested interests. The feudal attitude that is so prevalent in Malaysia has resulted in what Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has bemoaned for a long time, more so since he took office in May this year. The sense of shame among Malaysians is at an all-time low.

But how can one feel ashamed of being corrupt or committing academic fraud if punishment is going to be only skin-deep? Feudalism dictates leniency. Since the release of the National Unity Consultative Council blueprint in October this year, there has been a renewed urgency to tackle racial and religious tensions. Last week’s disturbing incident in Seafield, USJ 25 (Sri Maha Mariamman temple), though, tells me more about the misperception of values as opposed to politicking based on race and religion. Let me explain.

Six civilians were injured, including a policeman and a firefighter. The latter caught the media’s attention as his injuries were critical, apart from him being Malay. What caught my attention though were the appeals made by readers in the comment sections of many online media portals. Many called for an end to senseless bickering by politicians, and an end to politicising race and religion by the opposition. Some made visceral attacks targeted at Malays, while others from various races appealed for normality. One non-Malay reader commented that the Malays are a peace-loving, kind, polite and “soft” people, implying that the temple fracas had nothing to do with race or religion.

I agree, but I also worry that these positive Malay traits are fodder for the perpetuation of a feudal mindset in our society. Manipulators will certainly take advantage of such noble characteristics to claim subservience from the hinterland. Rural folk revere their leaders, especially those with titles. They are regarded as orang besar. The reality is that most rural Malaysians have blind loyalty for their titled heroes. Ongoing support for the likes of our previous leaders and their respective parties is a strong case in point. However, the values of being a kind, polite and “soft” people must be divorced from the backward feudal ideology that has been etched into the Malaysian mindset. The only way we can evolve from this feudal pit of inequality is through education.

Our schools should continue teaching universal moral values. Religious education should be separate from our national education curriculum. More time and resources should be devoted to the teaching of the negative aspects of feudalism and its detrimental effect on the social contract.

Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s call to include the 1MDB scandal in Malaysian history is welcomed. However, if this is not deeply thought through, young minds will fail to see a connection between feudal patronage and corruption. After all, the 1MDB scandal was engineered by many orang besar. Similarly, Malaysians are taught in school to be polite from young, but they should also be taught that stating the honorific Datuk or Tan Sri many times in a single sentence when addressing an orang besar is unnecessary. It does not make the conversation more polite or morally elevated. All it does is prolong an irrational hierarchy in social interaction.

Feudalism being what it is – reverence of a leader, a personality rather than adherence to an ideology – opens society to blatant manipulation. Citizens’ representatives should also be given the choice of whether to accept an honorific or not, without any character assassination should he/she refuse it. In our culture, it is believed that not accepting such awards would be an insult to the Agong or the rulers. On the contrary, I see such a refusal as humble, and an example of a dedicated and selfless “servant” of society. These values should be revered. Such an act of refusal demonstrates great integrity and decency. A feudal mind, however, would think otherwise. A feudal mind would value the financial perks and parking in a no-parking zone.

The overwhelming feeling of privilege and self-deservedness among Malaysians is staggering. For instance, in the world of academia, the highest award given is Emeritus. In Malaysia, we also have Profesor Ulung and Profesor DiRaja, both of which do not make any sense in the global scholarly arena.

On an international level, a professor has reached the highest level of scholarly achievement in a particular academic field based on the decades he or she has devoted to teaching, research and publishing. Recognition of profound academic achievement is also given if students of such professors have achieved their own pristine level of scholarship. Both student and mentor are highly regarded, irrespective of who has been awarded the honorific.

Also, merely the quantity of publications should not be the litmus test of success or failure in the academia. Internationally, academics are given high recognition for quality publications – articles and books that offer cutting-edge discoveries, new theories and creative interpretations that can potentially improve the way we live. An academic could write only a single magnus opus throughout his or her career, and yet go down in history as a legendary scholar and a great mind.

The award of Professor Emeritus should not be dished out irresponsibly. At the monthly staff assembly in the Prime Minister’s Department earlier this week, Dr.Mahathir reminded the government and members of the administration that the power bestowed on them means that they should feel great responsibility to avoid self-benefit and self-interest. Instead, “with great power comes great responsibility”.

Chapter 4 of Alatas’ “Intellectuals in Developing Societies” is entitled “The Fools in Developing Societies”. A serious expose is presented on a somewhat “foolish” topic. The state of being a fool in society is prolonged by titled individuals. These decorated individuals come a dime a dozen. If the deserving are honoured, there would be fewer fools in society. If we learn to appreciate the value of excellence and hard work, we would create a society that strives for such an achievement. In the process the level of competency in all aspects of society will be raised.

In the current Malaysian context, H.G Wells’ “martian red weed” (in “The War of the Worlds”) represents how bebalisma has encroached into every nook and cranny of our lives. It is proving to be a herculean task to re-programme such a mindset.

Many in the top political intelligentsia, the business community and society in general seem oblivious to the “invisible hand” of feudalism. We complain a lot about corruption, racism, bigotry, poor quality of education, the increase in consumer prices, high road accident rates, lack of academic freedom, etc. I hope we will continue to find solutions to these serious problems by invoking a more anti-feudalism, anti-bebalisma narrative.

Thankfully there are segments of Malaysian society which have consciously rejected this feudal hierarchy of “idol worship”. However, our education system must become more involved as the young need to be taught that feudalism is not acceptable just because it is part of our tradition.

* The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

 

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